Supporting young calves’ diets with a blend of fibre and grain once they hit pasture is critical for their ongoing development and life-long health, according to an industry feed specialist, Michael Bell from Fiber Fresh Feeds.
Mr Bell says giving calves a mix of feeds that includes meal or grain, as well as high nutritional fibre, gives them the best possible start and will see them develop to their full potential.
“Feeding quality fibre is all about rumen development and creating life-long, sustainable animal health, as well as making calves pasture-ready. But calves also need fat and energy, which they get from meal-based feeds. That’s where the philosophy of blending comes in.
“Feeding animals a fibre-based product, like FiberStart, as well as meal while they are newly out to pasture is important to keep the development momentum going and avoid weaning checks. The end result is bigger, healthier animals that have greater breeding potential, improved long-term milk production, reduced empty rates and better six week in-calf rates.”
With the calving season currently in full force, many farmers are putting calves out to pasture as early as four weeks of age due to the recent relatively dry, warm conditions. Fiber Fresh founding director Mr Bell is encouraging farmers to continue with feeding programmes right up until 12 weeks of age.
“The first 12 weeks in a calf’s life is the most crucial time in developing productive rumens and laying down the foundations of life-long gut health. Superior full stomach development enables greater efficiency and absorption of nutrients and allows calves to thrive and develop to their full potential.
“Our fibre products can be blended with any meal or grain-based feed, and our research backs up why calves should be given easily digestible fibre from birth to 12 weeks. Whether calves are penned or on pasture, feeding a quality fibre to young stock will provide them with a greater capacity and better health as the result.”
Recently completed research undertaken in conjunction with AgResearch shows Fiber Fresh reared calves have 18% heavier rumens at weaning than those fed a control diet, as well as having thicker rumen walls and a greater number of papillae, suggesting improved physical and morphological development. The research also saw calves with an adult-like rumen fermentation pattern during and post weaning, better metabolic functionality and a better nutrient transport system.
“At seven weeks old, calves reared on Fiber Fresh have a big, well-muscled rumen with superior papillae growth, giving a large surface area for nutrient absorption that results in greater feed efficiency. Ultimately, this will have longer-term benefits on the bottom line.”